Defensive End- It all starts up front for this defense, with the edge rushers. The great Bears teams of the 1980s, and the two Lovie Smith playoffs teams of 2005 and 2006 were all built around pressure from the front four. The Bears have still had some whopping busts on the line, including our three man rotation at defensive end-
Right Defensive End- Alonzo Spellman. The last first round pick of the Ditka regime was Ohio State sack artist Alonzo Spellman, with the 22nd pick in 1992. Spellman was drafted to replace the aging Richard Dent. Spellman failed to ever even come Close to the numbers Dent put up in his time in Chicago, never registering more than 8.5 sacks in one season (and even in that career year he did much of his damage in just one game, with three sacks against Philadelphia). Spellman would often disappear for stretches at a time, often going months without a sack before reeling off a good game or two. After suffering from injuries and ineffectiveness during the 1997 season, Spellman was released by the Bears. After sitting out the 1998 season, he played three more seasons with the Cowboys and Lions before being released in 2001. Spellman has become known more for his erratic personality and bipolar disorder than his career as a football player, some excerpts (straight from ol' Wikipedia):
"Spellman exhibited erratic behavior during his time with the Bears. The first incident in which this behavior became public was in March 1998, in which Spellman became enraged when a doctor was late for an appointment, pulling a telephone off of a wall and threatening suicide. Complicating matters, Spellman had access to alcohol and a firearm and by this time weighed in the neighborhood of 300 lbs (136 kg). Authorities were called in, and friend and former teammate Mike Singletary helped get Spellman to check into a hospital, but Spellman later wandered out of the hospital."
"Spellman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but refused to take medication, instead becoming increasingly reliant on drugs and alcohol. This led to even more erratic behavior and run-ins with the law. These problems, along with his refusal to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his injured shoulder, led to Spellman's release by the Bears."
"Most notably, he had a manic episode on July 23, 2002 in which he disrupted a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia. Spellman initially suggested that the flight was going to crash, then became verbally abusive to other passengers and threatened members of the flight crew. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing. Spellman was released, but then destroyed some property at his brother's home and was taken to a psychiatric hospital. He was later arrested on charges of interference with a flight crew. Although doctors confirmed that he had bipolar disorder, Spellman was determined to be legally sane and spent 18 months in federal prison."
Since leaving the NFL Spellman has played in the Arena Football League and has also participated in Mixed Martial Arts.
Left Defensive End- John Thierry. The man who was intended to be Spellman's long term book end is indeed his companion on this team. With the 11th overall pick in the 1994 Draft, Dave Wannstedt snagged linebacker John Thierry from 1-AA Alcorn State, with the intention of turning him into a defensive end. Wannstedt claimed that Thierry could be "the next Charles Haley." I'm going to link to Charles Haley's numbers here. Click on Thierry's namelink, then on the Haley link. Go ahead and compare the stats. I'll wait. Back yet? Hurts, don't it? Instead of become a pass rushing force with 6 seasons of double digit sacks like Haley, Thierry became a monumental bust, who never cracked the starting lineup for more than 9 games in a season or registered more than 4.0 sacks as a Bear. After finally being chased out of town with his hair-lipped head coach following the 1998 season, Thierry wound up in Cleveland, then Green Bay, where he posted better numbers in both cities than he ever did in Chicago. Asshole.
2nd String- Dan Bazuin. You'll notice, if you click the link, that a search for Dan Bazuin on the all-knowing Pro-Football-Reference.com returns no answers. That's because Bazuin, the Bears 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft out of Central Michigan, never played a single down in the NFL. After registering 33.5 sacks in his highly productive college career, Bazuin injured his knee during his first NFL preseason. When the injury required a second surgery, Bazuin was released by the Bears. After failing to make it as a practice squad member of the Houston Texans, Bazuin was informed by doctors that he'd never be able to play football again, and he promptly retired.
Defensive Tackle- Just as important as the defensive ends, the Bears have had some great success drafting either spectacular or solid defensive tackles in my lifetime, players like Tommie Harris, Chris Zorich, and Jim Flanigan. That doesn't excuse them of a few of the mistakes they've made, however.
Nose Guard- Tank Johnson. Johnson, of course, makes this list more for his off-field than on field activities. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft, Johnson was supposed to pair with that year's first round pick, Tommie Harris, and provide the Bears with an unstoppable duo of tackles for years to come. At first Tank's greatest challenge was cracking the starting lineup, which he failed to do consistently until an injury to Tommie Harris in 2006. Then Johnson suffered his series of run ins with the law, culminating in a house arrest that required Johnson to get a special dispensation so that he could participate in the Superbowl in Miami. The full details of Johnson's troubles with the law are compiled here, and it would take up far too much room to copy and paste. If you're not willing to read all that, here's a brief synopsis: he was arrested for illegal firearms, assault, resisting arrest, reckless driving, and driving while intoxicated, his house was searched and found to full of loaded, illegal weapons (there were children in the house), his friend and bodyguard was found in the house and arrested for pot. That same bodyguard then got shot and killed. Then after the 2006 Tank was arrested once more and finally released by the Bears, having played just three seasons for the team. He started just 15 games during that span, and record just 9 sacks. After being cut by the Bears, he spent 2007 and 2008 as a back up with the Cowboys before joining fellow bust Cedric Benson with the Bengals this offseason.
Nose Tackle-Michael Haynes. The other half of the Bear's two picks in the first round of the 2003 draft (Haynes went 14th overall, Grossman went 22nd) also makes this list. Haynes, a defensive end out of Penn State, was a one year wonder who racked up 15 sacks his senior year. After being taken by the Bears he failed to start a single game his rookie year or challenge Alex Brown for playing time. When Lovie Smith brought the Tampa 2 defense with him to Chicago, Haynes found himself a poor fit for the scheme. The Bears moved Haynes to defensive tackle (which is why he occupies this spot on the list), but he still failed to make a significant impact. He was traded to the Saints after the 2005 season after starting just 4 games and registering only 5.5 sacks in three years. The Saints released him after just one game, and he's been out of football since 2007.
Linebacker- At linebacker the Bears have hit on some great picks over the last few decades, from Rosevelt Colvin and Warrick Holdman to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But they've made their fair share of mistakes at this position, and the defenses throughout much of the 1990s suffered because of two of three picks that make this team.
SLB- Ron Cox. A 2nd round pick in the 1990 draft, Cox spend 5 of his 7 seasons in Chicago in a reserve role, and never started more than 13 games in a season, made more than 56 tackles, had more than 3 sacks, and recorded only 1 career interception.
MLB- Dante Jones. The Bears second round pick in the 1988 draft, Jones spent his first five seasons riding the bench behind Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. Jones stepped finally stepped into the starting spot in 1993, and had a monster season, with 189 tackles, 4 interceptions, and a sack. Too bad he was a one year wonder and dropped to just 61 tackles with no sacks or interceptions before being benched in 1994. He was released after that season.
WLB-Michael Okwo. Much like his fellow 2007 draft pick, Dan Bazuin, a Pro-Football-Reference.com search for Dan Bazuin returns no results, because Okwo has also never played a single NFL down. The '07 third round pick from Stanford was also injured during his first preseason, required multiple surgeries, and was cut by the Bears before the 2008 season. He's currently a free agent.
Corner- The Bears have only drafted two first round corners since 1988 (Donnell Woolford and Walt Harris), and while neither one was spectacular, both were quality players, so there haven't been any Major draft whiffs at this position in my lifetime. They've even gotten good value from the corners they've drafted in the 2nd round in that time (Tillman and Hester, although Hester has obviously made his mark somewhere Other than corner). So that makes the two "busts" at this position merely two mediocre players-
RCB- Jeremy Lincoln. A third round pick out of Tennessee in 1992, Lincoln started for just 2 1/2 seasons and was mostly pedestrian in pass coverage, recording only 5 interceptions in 47 games. He was cut before the 1996 season.
SS- Todd Johnson. A 4th round pick out of Florida in the 2003 draft, Johnson was a prodigious hitter, but a poor fundamental player who missed as many tackles as he made and hasn't recorded a single interception in his 5 year career (3 years in Chicago, 2 in St. Louis). He was cut after the 2006 season.